The Verb “be”

In our dictionary of terms we explained what a verb is – the word describing action or state. There are obviously plenty of words in English yet some deserve a closer look than others. One of such verbs is the verb BE. It is very important for your students to understand its structure and how it acts in a sentence because this verb plays a crucial role in forming some of the English tenses. To be able to build the tense correctly, they need to understand the verb BE itself.

First of all, the verb BE takes different forms depending on the pronoun as well as on the tense. Let’s first look at all the forms of the verb BE in present:


Iam=I‘ma teacher.
Youare=You‘remy student.
Heis=He‘svery tall.
Itis=It‘sa table.


Weare=We‘rein the classroom.
Youare=You‘regood students.

As you can see, there are 3 forms of the verb BE in the present: AM / ARE / IS . It’s that simple, welcome to the verb BE!

When introducing them to your students, it’s always good to teach the short (I’m) and full forms (I am), like above, so they’re not confused when they see a shorter form of a given phrase and perhaps don’t recognise it.


Am Ia teacher?
Are youmy student?
Is hevery tall?
Is sheKathy?
Is ita table?


Are wein the classroom?
Are yougood students?
Are theyhappy?

We form questions with the verb BE by means of inversion – we swap the order of words from ‘I am‘ to ‘Am I?’


Iamnot=I‘mnot=  a teacher.
Youarenot=You‘renot=Youaren’tmy student.
Heisnot=He‘snot=Heisn’tvery tall.
Itisnot=It‘snot=Itisn’ta table.


Wearenot=We‘renot=Wearen’tin the classroom.
Youarenot=You‘renot=Youaren’tgood students.

We form negations of the verb BE by adding NOT. Again, it’s important to show all possible short forms.

Analogically, it works the same in the past. Let’s have a look:


I was

You were

He was

She was

It was → There are 2 forms of the verb BE in the past: WAS / WERE

We were

You were

They were



Was I?

Were you? 

Was he?

Was she? → Inversion

Was it?

Were we?

Were you?

Were they?



Wewerenot=Weweren’tBE + NOT